In the past few months, I have written a lot about what motor carriers can do about preparing for the new FMCSA’s Compliance, Safety and Accountability (CSA) program. So, now I am going to show drivers what they can do to prepare and protect their CSA scores, thus protecting their PSP scores and careers!
First, know and follow the safety rules and regulations. If you don’t have a pocket version of the DOT regulations, you better get one. Second, become more familiar with how FMCSA will assess points under CSA. Third, become knowledgeable about the new Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs). Fourth, keep copies of all your inspection reports (every inspection affects your score). Fifth, violations that fall under the “Unsafe Driving” and “Fatigued Driving” BASICs are heavily weighted and will red flag your carrier and prompt a visit from the DOT (you don’t want that). And sixth, join an association. Every driver should have someone to turn to, such as the NTA, to get the help and assistance they need.
To give you an idea of what you have to know, here are the numbers regarding points for certain violations. “Unsafe Driving” has 36 violations of which 15 will get you 5 points each. “Fatigued Driving” has 28 violations of which 17 will get you 7 points each. “Driver Fitness” has 31 violations of which 19 are worth 8 points each. “Controlled Substance” has 3 violations and 2 of them will cost you 10 points each. “Vehicle Maintenance” has 220 violations of which 56 are 4 points each, 49 are 3 points each and 46 are 2 points each. “Cargo-Related” has 352 violations of which 112 are 10 points each, 91 of them will get you 8 points each, and 67 will cost you 5 points each. Total these all up, and there are 670 possible violations that can cost you big points against your CSA score.
Getting clean roadside inspections is the key to getting favorable scores under CSA.
Use BigRoad electronic logs to eliminate all form and manner issues and stay aware of potential violations before they occur. Because of this fact, it is vital that truck drivers understand how the FMCSA plans to target trucks for inspection.
To help screen commercial vehicles for inspection, FMCSA has developed a new Inspection Selection System (ISS) to get data on motor carriers. This data has an inspection value from 1 to 100, and if you are found to have an ISS value of 75 or more, an inspection will be required. If you have an ISS value that falls between 50 and 74, an inspection is optional, but not mandatory. If you are found to have an ISS value below 50, no inspection will be necessary at that time.
As you can see, this system makes it a team effort for all of the drivers to ensure that their carrier has (and keeps) a good CSA score. So, make sure that every driver understands that every violation counted against them by law enforcement affects the entire fleet’s score. A few bad apples in your fleet can cause all the trucks to be inspected. On the flip-side of that, safety inspections that record no violations will improve you and your carrier’s overall score. As a professional driver, it is part of your job to always perform a complete pre-trip inspection, so stop whining about it and just do it! Besides, according to FMCSA officials, roughly one-third of the 3.5 million state inspection reports done each year end up having zero violations – so don’t tell me that it can’t be done.
There are 5 levels of inspections: Level I and Level II inspections are by far the most thorough, covering all driver and vehicle safety issues. Level III inspections cover driver and hazardous materials issues only. A Level IV inspection covers special items, such as cargo tanks. A Level V inspection covers the vehicle only. Under federal rules, inspection data must be transmitted from the states to the FMCSA within 21 days.
Congress mandated the FMCSA’s new Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP). While CSA and PSP are related, PSP was the result of a 2005 congressional directive to make driver safety information available electronically for pre-employment screening and is not part of CSA. Every commercial driver out there has a safety data record in PSP. That record includes five years of crash data and three years of roadside inspection records. That information is broken down into the BASIC categories. Each category contains your applicable percentile for that category, however moving violations are not included. Motor carriers may review records only after the carrier receives the driver’s written authorization.
Most carriers use this PSP program, in addition to checking with the individual states, when considering hiring a driver. Some fleets are using this PSP program data as strictly another way to check out the driver they are looking to hire. PSP data can also help a carrier identify a driver’s possible problem areas before hiring him or her. For example, the driver may have a good driving record but seems to lack a good understanding of the hours-of-service rules. Drivers who find themselves with high scores in a particular BASIC category should take the applicable CSA corrective action course, developed by the Transportation Safety Institute. These courses can be taken online, and can be found on NTA’s website under the “Education” tab at the top.
What can a driver do if a carrier declines to hire him or her because of the data they got from PSP? First, if the driver feels that the information in their PSP record is not accurate, the driver may contest the data by visiting FMCSA’s DataQs online system. Second, drivers also have the right, under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, to obtain a free copy of their PSP data record from the carrier making the hiring decision. Finally, sole proprietor drivers can get their own PSP by just paying a search fee.
Last but not least, if you want to be sure that only accurate data reaches the federal databases, make sure to update your Motor Carrier Form MCS-150. Some of the details on this form – like how many trucks you have, how many miles you run, and your current e-mail address – are crucial to properly calculate your CSA score and get electronic updates. Further, it is your responsibility to see that YOUR physical and mailing address is shown and not some licensing agent, because this is where your records are kept. And be sure to buckle up – driving without your seatbelt on will get you 7 points!